Cyber Security Challenges for the Shipping Industry

20 ביולי 2020 Shawn Mack Shawn Mack

The shipping industry has matured tremendously from the past years on a global scale. It is digitized nowadays to bring multiple advantages in terms of cost-effectiveness and enhanced productivity. The companies prefer client satisfaction by offering low shipping charges and the safety of the products.

No doubt, shipping is the cheapest way to transfer cargo all around the world with the least possibility of the occurrence of any damages to the products. The supreme reason for this huge adaptation of the shipping industry amongst the aforementioned is ‘Automation’. The automatic feature at present eliminates the need for complex computing/manual commands to operate the ship. This comfort allows the seafarers to focus more on ship monitoring. 

Where this feature brings remarkable advantages to humans, some challenges also come across and the biggest of them is Cyber Security. Most of the trade is made possible by shipping all around the world. The ships are heavily loaded with a large number of goods and thus gain the attention of cybercriminals. Although the concerned shipping authorities are taking all the necessary measures to avoid cyber threats but still there is a need for continuous up-gradation of the security system.

In the past, there are many examples of cyber threats that lead the respective companies to face huge losses in terms of data breaching, reputation, and finance. As we step into this modern era, these cyber threats are also growing with the growth of the technological market. It is an undeveloped thought to predict cyberattacks of similar nature. These attacks can be of various natures i.e. cargo theft, navigational errors, jamming of communications, invoice frauds, data stealing, ransomware incidents, fake GPS, and Tax scams. If you are doing business in the UK, you can get the latest tax information about your employees and company on HM Revenue & Custom (HMRC online chat) to keep your business safe from tax scams. 

The computing systems should be automated enough to avoid such attacks by using strong encryption techniques and authorized access. The data on ship servers can only be made accessible by inputting specific codes or credentials. 

It is predicted by Cyber Security Ventures that nearly $1 trillion are invested between 2017-2021 on cybersecurity measures globally. This huge investment was a result of an increasing number of cybercrimes that are affecting companies’ images and reputation. But, heavily securing the ship servers and computational systems would be of no use when we failed to upgrade security systems at ports, satellite security and control towers. Where we are enjoying the perks of living in a modern world, these enormous threats also come across as a by-product of modernization. What we see in movies now seems realistic!

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Although many security measures have been taken from time to time to increase cybersecurity, there is always a window for improvement. The cybersecurity measure taken today are still not enough and apart from that, there evolve many issues when it comes to implementation. Here we will discuss some cybersecurity challenges that are still faced by concerned authorities.

Lack of Training 

One of the biggest challenges that come with cybersecurity implementation is the lack of proper training for the ship crew members. It is impossible to keep the same crew for every ship for a longer time. This keeps the crew member changing before they have full hands-on that specific ship technology. This lack of handling of the ship from the crew side can also play its part in cyber threats. When the technicians don’t know every bit of the ship's computational system, they can’t resist malware cyberattacks timely. 

Upgradation of the Computing System

As the world is revolutionized, computing technologies are upgraded daily, it is the need of today's world to modernize and enhance the computing equipment. For this reason, the ship's built-in systems should be customized to make it compatible with the upgraded computational system. This is surely not as easy as it looks. When it comes to implementation, this will become a challenge. 

No Internet Access

Where everything on earth is connected through the internet gives birth to the Internet of Things (IoT). Our shipping industries have not opted for this technology yet. The enabling of IoT technology on ships will connect each cargo to the owner, independently. This online tracking will reduce the pressure on the onboard ship crew to manually check the goods. Moreover, internet access will enable crew members to speedily access the internet cloud and take timely decisions. The IoT will keep a track of shipping cargos and save the data over online servers.

Connectivity of Multiple Ports 

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When the ship is connected to a single terrestrial port, in case of signal jamming, the ship is left paralyzed with no communication at all. This will lead the ship stranded with no navigational coordinates and hence become more prone to pirate attack. Connecting the ship with multiple terrestrial ports will help the crew members to communicate with the other nearby ports for some speedy actions.

1:1 Approach of Company Size & Budget for Security

It was seen from some recent events that companies usually don’t invest much when it comes to dealing with cybercrimes. Some recent surveys unveil these bitter truths about companies spending only 15% to 20% of their revenue on cybersecurity. If these attacks are not likely to happen every time, still the ship is highly vulnerable to these cyber threats which are likely to happen at any time. The best way to deal with this is to rationalize the security budget with the company size. The bigger the company is, the more chances of cyber-attacks, and hence, the much bigger security measure to cope with malware.

Distance with Terrestrial Stations

The nature of this mode of transportation is itself a challenge on its own. The massive distancing between ship and terrestrial stations yields multiple challenges that affect cybersecurity. Above all is the latency faced during communication with the terrestrial control station. This latency can lead to delayed actions, data leakage, and on-time measures.

Shawn Mack is a content writer who offers ghostwriting, copy-writing, and blogging services.His educational background in business and technical field has given him a broad base from which to approach many topics. He is also fond of writing interesting blogs on technology & digital marketing related topics. He occasionally writes blog articles for Techloner.